Narrative of the Lord's Wonderful Dealings with John Marrant, a Black

by John Marrant
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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 682

Marrant depicts himself as a fascinating character. He is a young, almost picaresque person who abandons his errant ways after being converted to Christianity. Much of Marrant’s narrative, however, suffers from a lack of believability. His zealous religious spirit makes him give everything a providential character. The biblically significant period of three days figures in everything that happens to him. He goes unharmed when he walks by the beasts in the forest, and he immediately knows how to speak to the Indians in their language. His prayers heal the king’s daughter, and he is able to convert the Cherokee king and his daughter with little trouble.

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The narrative also shows a lack of artistic design. The closing part of the account is especially weak. Marrant quickly runs through the latter facts of his life and abruptly ends his story. He says almost nothing about his impressment in the British navy, where he was a virtual slave for over six years, and he never mentions any of the prejudice that he must have encountered as an African American, despite his freeman status. Nevertheless, the story of his early adventures in the South, the absorbing picture of George Whitefield, who captures the youth’s spirit for the Christian faith, and Marrant’s marvelous experiences with the Indians in the wilderness make the narrative an appealing piece of prose.

What is also interesting about Marrant’s work is that it is both an Indian captivity narrative and a spiritual autobiography. The spiritual pattern of sin, conversion, and rebirth appears alongside the Indian captivity’s structural components of separation, transformation, and freedom. These elements can be seen in the sharply outlined parts of the story. After Marrant undergoes his conversion episode, he wanders into the forest, where he is captured by Indians who plan to kill him; however, he succeeds in saving himself and his newly acquired Christian faith while he is in captivity. In fact, his faith in God is strengthened and his commitment to a religious life is deepened by his experience with the Indians, who allow him to make attempts to convert them. After several years of living as an Indian, Marrant returns to the English world and dedicates himself to furthering his missionary work.

Unlike many Indian captivity narratives that depict Indians as superstitious demons, Marrant’s work gives a balanced treatment of the Native Americans. He makes a point of mentioning the Indians who help him and extend their friendship to him during his captivity, and he sympathizes with them concerning their persecution at the hands of the white Americans. He is...

(The entire section contains 682 words.)

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Critical Context